July 17 (UPI) — The Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort left Peru on Wednesday, its second stop in Central America serving refugees from Venezuela.
The ship completed its five-day “medical mission,” the U.S. Southern Command said in a statement on Wednesday, to “relieve pressure on national medical systems strained by an increase in Venezuelan migrants.”
In Peru, over 4,500 patients were treated and over 100 surgeries were performed aboard the ship.
“This morning the mission ended with expected success, having seen a great number of patients and provided medical services to the community in general,” said Vice Adm. Manuel Váscones, chief of staff of the Peruvian Navy on Sunday, at a ceremony to end the visit. “The commitment of cooperation that the governments of the United States and Peru have undertaken only reaffirms the solid bilateral relations that allow the execution of humanitarian efforts like this mission.”
Staffed with 320 medical professionals from the United States, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica and Peru, the USNS Comfort’s current deployment includes stops in Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, Panama, Saint Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Trinidad and Tobago.
The ship is a non-combatant hospital vessel typically staffed by officers of the Navy’s Medical Corps, Dental Corps, Medical Service Corps, Nurse Corps and Chaplain Corps, and enlisted Hospital Corpsman personnel.
It is primarily visiting areas hosting Venezuelan refugees who have fled their country’s economic and political hardships. Pence, in his announcement, said that at least three million people have left Venezuela and the regime of President Nicolas Maduro.
The ship most recently visited South America and the Caribbean area on an 11-week mission in the autumn of 2018. In support of the U.S. Southern Command’s Enduring Promise initiative, the ship and personnel worked to relieve shortages of medical care in Ecuador, Peru, Colombia and Honduras.
In 2017, Comfort traveled to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico with medical and other supplies. It arrived as 97 percent of the island was without electrical power, and about half the population was without clean drinking water.